The 24th October 1975 is referred to as 'The Long Friday' by the people of Iceland. Supermarkets sold out of ready meals, schools, nurseries and factories were all shut down and hospitals were under-staffed. The country ground to a halt as 90% of Icelandic women went on strike for both their paid and unpaid work. This demonstration alone proved to a nation how vital women's paid and unpaid working roles are to a country's infrastructure, growth and stability.
As a result of the strike, in 1976 Iceland was one of the first countries to pass a comprehensive Gender Equality Act. Today, Iceland has the most gender-equal parliament in the world (without a quota system) and their laws, regulations and guidelines intrinsically reflect this e.g. their maternity and childcare regulations are among some of the most gender-equitable in the world. Iceland has not only proved that women in the workplace are paramount to the success of a country, but also that the representation of women as key decision-makers ensures that the other 50% of the human race is accommodated. Furthermore, a nation learnt the importance of female contribution to the success of a shared goal.
At Ouma, we like to think that we're a bit like Iceland (but without the whales swimming by our windows and lunch breaks spent in geothermic pools). We are proud to encourage strong, empowered women as our decision-makers, leaders and creatives within our team. We honour the intuitive nature of female contribution as part of our team's very foundation. As a collective we all originate from very different walks of life and work together from a place of honesty, equality and courage; making our work as unique as the collective minds it came from.
To celebrate International Women's Day 2021 we passed the mic to some of our team members to offer our individual experiences of gender equality and representation in our careers...
"When I was seventeen, working and studying in the Hospitality industry, I was told by a male guest speaker at my college that I was so talented I should prepare myself for making a decision later on in life; to have a career or a family. This white, male baby-boomer in a position of authority meant this as a compliment and it was not said in a condescending or patronising way. However, I believe that by its very nature, his naivety of how incredibly sexist, regressive and incorrect this statement was, made it all the more damaging (and demonstrated how insidious gender inequality is in our society).
That early experience taught me that when someone presents you with a dichotomy, an either/or choice, you need to reflect on their agenda more than your own and re-write the script. For thirteen years I have surrounded myself with incredible women in my life. Women that have inspired me and taught me lessons, even if they didn't know it. Women that prove there are no limits or boundaries to what we are capable of, there are no finite decisions. I truly believe, when women that have walked different life paths come together, great things happen." - Rebecca Randall
"As a mum to three young children, I've navigated the current global pandemic like the many other working parents - one hard day at a time. In some kind of hybrid working/parenting rotation, we make up for a large percentage of women holding down the responsibilities of at least two full-time jobs. In an overnight shift, we were expected to continue being efficiently productive at work, whilst home-schooling and providing an appropriate level of education to our children. Not forgetting the daily household chores and finding the time to slow down and show our children some love and affection too. Some employers understand, others won't. I'm fortunate enough to work within an environment where I'm given lenience for parental responsibility, which is paramount to my decision to pursue a career.
Doctor appointments, parent evenings, school drop-offs and unexpected stomach bugs that leave me without childcare. I genuinely believe it's this relentless responsibility that often puts mothers in a more undesirable category for employment. The reality is, if workplaces can accommodate working mothers, they gain valuable employees. Life experience, empathy and the ability to lead are all parental traits that translate well into the workplace. Today, I'll be raising a glass to all women, but specifically, I'll hope the biggest change we start to see is the one where working mums are welcomed to the workplace with open arms more often - without fight, with no resistance, but instead, excitement for what they can bring." - Michelle Smith
"In my early years of running a business, I was reserved, quiet and shy. I was of the belief that because I wasn't some dominating, ball-busting female, I wasn't equipped to be a leader in any shape or form. We grow up thinking that in business if we are to play with the 'big boys', we have to do so in our stiletto shoes and aggressive power suits.
These ridiculous definitions of management and leadership are continually shown in the media and these expectations are imprinted on women from a young age. It took me a few years to figure it out, but it turns out, you really don't have to be anything other than your true self to succeed in business. I am proud to lead a team of strong, talented women, each of us unique, bringing our own individual characteristics and traits into a business where together, we flourish." - Rachel Lyndon-Jones
"I’m not qualified to talk about the challenges that women face, nor will I ever be, but what I can do is listen, and try my very best to understand. I can’t relate to being a working mum, being rejected because of my gender or experience the underlying daily sexism of society, but I can listen, learn and where possible, help make a change. The fact that our team are all women makes me incredibly proud, and our success should make every business leader sit up and realise that equality starts with you." - Ross Jones
This year, in celebration of women across the world, we choose to challenge gender equality. Challenge your own and other's experiences of being a woman in 2021. Let's give women the opportunity to be leaders in their own right, to be seen and to be heard for exactly who they are. To bring something to the table that's never been seen before and carve a better path for us all to walk.
Here's to kick-ass women!